Understanding the Dangers of Blue-Green Algae (Cyanobacteria)

Understanding the Dangers of Blue-Green Algae (Cyanobacteria)


(Music) With its many beautiful lakes, rivers and
streams, summer in California provides all kinds of opportunities for water recreation. And while the warm water and abundant sunshine
can make for the perfect summer day on the water, they’re also the perfect conditions
for something that can ruin your day – harmful algal blooms, or HABs. Cyanobacteria, also known as blue/green algae,
are naturally-occurring components of ecosystems that can grow rapidly in warm, calm waterways. Under these conditions, they can
quickly grow into large blooms, which can be seen in the water
and along the shoreline. And while some of them are harmless, others
release toxins into the water which can harm both people and pets – and there’s no way
to tell if they’re harmful just by looking at them. (Waves crashing) Characteristics of a potentially harmful algal
bloom include: small green, blue-green, white or brown particles in the water;
color streaks in the water; and mats, scum or foam on
the surface or the shoreline. Avoid getting into the water when you
see signs of blue/green algae and look for posted
advisories related to HABs. Under a “Caution” advisory,
swimming is allowed, but it’s recommended to avoid
contact with the algae. Under a “Warning” or “Danger” advisory,
do not swim or let your pet swim. (Music) Under any posted advisories, it’s important
to know that contact with HABs can be very harmful to people – causing rashes, vomiting,
diarrhea, or other cold and flu-like symptoms. Animals can be especially susceptible to the
toxins because they tend to drink while in the water and
lick their fur afterwards. If a HAB is present, keep your pets
away from the water. If exposed to cyanobacterial toxins, animals
can experience vomiting, diarrhea, weakness, difficulty breathing, seizures, or even death. Since bloom conditions can change rapidly
and may move around the reservoir, DWR recommends that the public obey posted signs
and stay away from the algae. Under a “Danger” advisory, avoid eating fish
or anything else that you catch in the affected water. And never use reservoir for drinking or cooking. (Music) In waterways that are part of the State Water Project,
the Department of Water Resources regularly tests for harmful algae contamination. When the lab tests are positive, signs are
posted at the waterway and also online to warn people about the dangers
of entering the water. Testing of the water continues until the lab
results show that the water is below the health advisory level for two full weeks. Only then are the signs removed
and the water considered safe. (Music) For many Californians, the best part of
summer is spending time on the water with family and friends. And when you think about
staying safe ON the water, make sure you also consider
what’s IN the water. Pay attention to posted signs, look for
characteristics of harmful algal blooms, and help keep your loved ones
safe and healthy. (Music)